Dressage Affaire returning to Del Mar

By Diana Saenger

There’s nothing more exciting for equestrian riders and fans than the return of the annual Dressage Affaire in Del Mar. Hosted this year by Rancho Valencia, the eighth annual event will once again gather many of the world’s top riders to compete and match their skills in this exciting sport. The Dressage Affaire runs March 8-11 at the Del Mar Horse Park Equestrian Facility, a 65-acre first-class equestrian center.

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Dressage Affaire at Del Mar Horse Park runs March 8-11. Photo: Mike Tomlinson

The competition events include the following qualifying pursuits in the equestrian discipline of Dressage:

• 2012 Olympic and Para Olympic Games

• 2012 Reem Acra World Cup Finals

• 2012 Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF National Grand Prix and Intermediate Championships

• 2012 Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Pony, Junior, Young Rider and Brentina Cup Championships

• 2012 FEI North American Junior/Young Rider Championships

• 2012 Markel/USEF National Young Horse and Developing Horse Dressage Championships

President Kim Keenan Stordahl and her staff at KP Events are in the final stages of readying the grounds for the spectators, competitors, classes, and events that take place during the Dressage Affaire.

“We’re working non-stop,” Stordahl said. “We had a scare because of the Equine Herpes Virus outbreak that hit horses in Orange County in January. The quarantine is lifted and everything is a go, but for a time we thought we would have to cancel the show.”

Riders come from the United States, Canada and Mexico hoping to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London and the 2012 World Cup Finals in The Netherlands. Stordahl is seeing some new names among the more than 300 riders signing up this year. An additional 20 handicapped riders will compete to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in the Para Equestrian Division.

“On the jury this year are two judges from Sweden, one from Canada and one from the U.S. for the CDI jury.” Stordahl said. “For the Para Equestrian Division is one judge each from Holland, Sweden and Germany. Judges go through levels of training that takes them years to work their way up to judge international events.”

Prize categories for the Dressage vary. This year will be a new presentation of a Grand Prix Freestyle Perpetual Trophy donated by the James Knox family.

“The Knox family live locally and have been involved with horses for many years,” Stordahl said. “The freestyle events are enjoyed by so many that we upped their promotion, and we’ve introduced prize money for the popular musical freestyle events as well.”

Sponsor Rancho Valencia is presenting both the $5,000 Rancho Valencia Grand Prix Freestyle (alteration) and the $5,000 Rancho Valencia Olympic Grand Prix Special (alteration) classes. Custom Saddlery will be presenting the $2,500 Custom Saddlery Intermediare I Freestyle Class. Wilson Cunningham West Insurance is sponsoring the $1,500 Wilson Cunningham West Young Rider Freestyle Class and Pegasus Training. Equine Rehabilitation Center is presenting the $1,500 Pegasus Training and Equine Rehabilitation Center Junior Freestyle Class. The $5,000 Para Equestrian Freestyles will be equally split between the grade levels.

The Dressage Affaire sheds a special light on equestrian competitions. Dressage is the French word for training, and this sport is the most disciplined of the equestrian sports requiring a refined, harmonious, silent conversation between horse and rider.

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